Without expansion, air travel will be reserved for the wealthy few

IEA research features in the Daily Telegraph

Snobs have never liked capitalism. They resent it for democratising previously exclusive goods and services, eventually making them available at affordable prices to millions of regular folk.

Aviation is a case in point: when the first commercial passenger jets were introduced in the Fifties by the British Overseas Airways Corporation, only the very rich could afford to travel by plane.

A brilliant analysis by Kristian Niemitz, of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), suggests that a further expansion of air travel, especially if prices stay low, will disproportionately benefit those on low incomes.

There is now little difference in flying behaviour between members of the A/B and C1 socio-economic groups, a saturated segment (itself a remarkable change) but those in the C2, D and E groups still fly much less. It is they who will pay the price if airport capacity isn’t increased and prices continue to increase.

Contrary to what some continue to claim, taxes on airline travel are already so high that the cost of pollution is more than covered. The IEA research shows that air passenger duty levels in 2007, before the tax was massively increased, were already “right” on the basis of o